History of Schools in Smith

History of Schools in Smith’s Falls

From the Perth Courier - May 4, 1894

A short time ago the Education Department asked the various school boards in the Province to forward a short history of the growth and development of educational interests in their localities.  The Smith’s Falls Board asked F.T. Frost to prepare the report for this town and below it will be found in full.

To G. Hodgins, Esq., Librarian, Department of Education, Toronto

Dear Sir:

Shortly after the close of the American Revolution surveys were ordered to be made in this section of Upper Canada and as early as 1790 settlers began to arrive and to take up land.  In 1801(?) there were 90 souls in Montague and something less in North Elmsley , the township in which Smith’s Falls is situated.  In 1801 Jesse McIntyre taught a school on Lot 20, 5th Concession, Montague.  In 1815 immigrants were locating in what was known as the “settlement on the Rideau” and here and there district schools were opened as numbers increased.

The building of the Rideau Canal brought a goodly number of N. Ireland people and Scotch Highlanders into the district and in 18??, when it was opened for traffic, there were about 200 in population permanently located in this part.

For school purposes, Smith’s Falls was included in District #1, North Elmsley , the school house being about 3 miles distant; but as education was not compulsory and school rates had to be paid any way, private schools sprang up and were well patronized.  The first that we have any record of was taught in 1831(?) by Miss Frances E. Bartlett, afterwards by Mrs. Kilborn, sister of the present town treasurer.  An upper room in the house now occupied by R.W. Bartlett was used for the purpose.  The same lady also taught school in a small house on Main Street still standing next to Barton’s Store and again later in 1833(?) in a house on the corner of Beckwith and William Streets where Brown, Waite & Company’s store now is and the writer might add that this little house was the one in which he first saw the light.

Other schools in the meantime had started and one was in the Lumber House on the site of Mrs. Caswell’s residence on Main Street taught by a man whose name is forgotten.  He was followed in the same room by Mr. Lane and he in turn was succeeded by Miss Jessop.

The district being divided by this time, a public school was opened and there were in succession Mr. McPherson who taught in a room in Dodd’s building on Beckwith Street; Mr. Nelson in a small house on William Street; Mr. Crookshanks in the Dodd’s Building and Neil Dunbar in a room over Matthew Wilson’s harness shop; Mr. Finney in the house now occupied by D.C. Healey on Water Street and Mr. Hines in the McNulty House on Market Street.

In 1847 a substantial stone building was erected as a common school on the present site of the central school and Mr. Carroll, father of Mrs. William Ritchie of this town was duly installed as teacher.  Neil Dunbar in the meantime was teacher of the grammar school in a building on Coombs lot opposite the market.

There was also a private school during this time taught by Mrs. John Wallace, Miss Bancroft(?) and Mrs. DeLong and was well patronized.

In 1853(?) a union of the common and grammar schools was effected and Neil Dunbar became the first principal with H.H. Loucks, present county attorney of Renfrew as assistant using the common school building for the united school.

The trustees at this time were James Shaw, M.P.P., A.R. Ward, William Simpson, Revs. J.D. Warrell, S. Mylne and William Aitken for the grammar school and Francis Hall, Henry Lake and D.W. H. Burritt for the common school.  With the exception of Revs. Warrell and Mylne and Mr. Hall, all these gentlemen have passed away and joined the great majority.

It was in this year (1853(?)) Smith’s Falls incorporated as a village having a population of nearly 800.  The school registrar had about 125(?) names.  The salary paid Mr. Dunbar was $500(?).  This year was also marked for the plastering of the walls of the school room, which had been omitted until then.  Five shillings per month was the rate for all pupils taking classics and one and three pence for the common school.  The legislative grant for that year was $94, with the municipal grant of $180 and from pupils there was collected $360 making the total receipts $634.

For ten years the Union School continued with very little change.  The legislative grant had increased to $130 and the municipal grant to $325(?).  The principals following Mr. Dunbar were Alexander McLennan in 1857, Spencer A. Jones in 1859 and following Mr. Loucks as assistants there were William D. Ballantyne, George H. Frost, David Liddell, Mary G. Bell(?) Ball(?) and Miss Manhard.  In 1850 our venerable clerk of the Board of Education Stewart Moag commenced his duties as assistant teacher.

Mr. Jones, the principal in 1859 seems from the record to have had a hard time.  At a regular meeting of the Board in February at which he was present he reported several cases of insubordination and exhibited “several dangerous missiles which had been thrown about the school” and tendered his resignation to take effect at the end of March which would complete his trial term of three months.  The Board laid the resignation on the table and agreed to support him in enforcing his authority.  In May, he wrote wishing to withdraw it and was permitted to do so.  In August, the Board requested him to resign.  In September, he said he would if they would pay him $212 being the full amount for the then current quarter.  Rev. Samuel Johnson was his successor.

The next decade to 1873 showed a substantial increase in educational matters.  Rev. S. Johnson resigned his position as principal of the grammar school in 1861(?) and was succeeded by David Lennox.  Stuart Moag was appointed principal of the Common School.  Mr. Lennox remained a year though complaints were going to the trustees at every meeting regarding his incapacity.  In 18??, he was succeeded by William Tyler the present able inspector of the Guelph City Schools who held the position until the end of 1865(?), his resignation being accepted with regret not only by trustees but by the whole village.

E.M. Bugg succeeded, who, according to the reports, lacked energy and had no ardor.  He resigned in March and was paid $112.50.  Mr. Christie was appointed and found to be still worse, he handled the position until the end of the year when he was asked to resign which he did and William T. Briggs became principal.

This period was marked by the erection in 1871 of the present central school replacing the former school building.  Two teachers were added to the teaching staff in the public school one of them being Miss Homack(?) and a  good increase in the register is shown.

The close of 18??, also brought in the resignation of the trustees of the late Dr. W. H. Burritt, who had been chairman of the Unit Board for 16 years besides trustee for a considerable time before and who was a great friend of education.  He had devoted a large amount of his time and talent to the furthering of education.

In this year also by virtue of new legislation, the grammar and common school law was so amended that in place of these schools we were given the high and public schools.

At the close of 1872 the receipts for school purposes increased to (illegible) and the expenditures to (illegible)

The next decade ended in 1874 and an assistant to Mr. McKellar was added to the high school and the public school had now five lady teachers besides Mr. Moag, the principal.

In 1877 the public school register allowed 332(?) pupils with 237 daily average and which included Elgin School lately annexed to the village.

In 1878 a wing was added to the Central School containing four rooms at a cost of $1,500.

In 1879 Mr. McCreary was added to the teaching staff in the public school making seven in all.  The average attendance at the high school at this time was 39 with 41 on the roll.

In 18?? Mr. Briggs resigned as principal of the high school and was succeeded by the late J.A. Clarke.

In 1883 the village was incorporated as a town with a population of 2,013.

Beginning with the decade from 1883 to 1893 we find that at no period in the history of the town had there been such  progress made either municipally or in an educational sense.

1884 recorded the death of Mr. Clarke, the principal, much regretted.  Mr. McGregor followed Mr. Clarke and Mr. A. Barwash(?) finished out the year and Neil Robertson was engaged as headmaster for 1885.  The year 1884 witnessed also the resignation of Mr. Moag as principal of the public school, being superannuated after a long service of 25 years teaching and he was succeeded by Mr. Hamilton the present incumbent.  In 1884 also the directors built a new high school at a cost of $3,300 not counting the site which was further added on to in 18??, at a cost of $1,300.

In 1887 Neil Robertson resigned and was succeeded by the present able and popular headmaster J.A. Houston.  In 1889 the South Ward School was built at a cost of $3,000 including price of the lot.

At the close of 1889 there were nearly 500 pupils on the school register being 106 more than a year before.  132 of these are in the high school while the staff of teachers has increased to 17 in all, four of whom are in the high school.  The trustees for the present year are making arrangements for still further accommodations to meet the requirements of the rapidly expanding town.

In this brief sketch I have not referred to all the teachers because space will not permit but I cannot close it without acknowledging their careful, conscientious work, cheerfully done, often times under difficulty when rooms have been overcrowded and ventilation not what it should be.  Neither can I refrain from speaking of the various Boards of Trustees who for 40 years have given their time and talent to the service of the people and the rising generations without fee or emolument of any kind being simply repaid by seeing the students become intelligent, useful and valuable citizens and it is a satisfaction to know that many scholars who have come out from our schools are today filling responsible and important positions in various parts of the country and the neighboring States and we can look back with pleasure to the discipline that fitted them for successes in life that have come to many of them.  Again, but few members of these boards remain with us.  Some, it is true, moved away and are still living such as Rev. Mr. Mylne in California, Mr. McDougall in Manitoba and a few others but the large number have gone to their long rest.  Their work, however, remains and it is good to know that in spite of the many drawbacks, they succeeded in the work with their unselfish aim in view namely the diffusion of knowledge and building up of a few enlightened and intelligent people worthy of a free country.

Posted: 15 July, 2004